A genetically informed Registered Report on adverse childhood experiences and mental health

Jessie R. Baldwin*, Hannah M. Sallis, Tabea Schoeler, Mark J. Taylor, Alex S.F. Kwong, Jorim J. Tielbeek, Wikus Barkhuizen, Varun Warrier, Laura D. Howe, Andrea Danese, Eamon McCrory, Fruhling Rijsdijk, Henrik Larsson, Sebastian Lundström, Robert Karlsson, Paul Lichtenstein, Marcus Munafò, Jean Baptiste Pingault

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Children who experience adversities have an elevated risk of mental health problems. However, the extent to which adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) cause mental health problems remains unclear, as previous associations may partly reflect genetic confounding. In this Registered Report, we used DNA from 11,407 children from the United Kingdom and the United States to investigate gene–environment correlations and genetic confounding of the associations between ACEs and mental health. Regarding gene–environment correlations, children with higher polygenic scores for mental health problems had a small increase in odds of ACEs. Regarding genetic confounding, elevated risk of mental health problems in children exposed to ACEs was at least partially due to pre-existing genetic risk. However, some ACEs (such as childhood maltreatment and parental mental illness) remained associated with mental health problems independent of genetic confounding. These findings suggest that interventions addressing heritable psychiatric vulnerabilities in children exposed to ACEs may help reduce their risk of mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-290
Number of pages22
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Volume7
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023

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